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The Wik Decision - the High Court reversed Justice Drummond’s judgement. The High Court found that pastoral leases did not necessarily extinguish native title and that both could co-exist but where there was a conflict native title rights were subordinate to the rights of the pastoral lease holder. The federal government develops ‘Ten Point Plan’ outlining a proposed legislative response to the High Court Wik decision, with the aim of limiting Aboriginal land rights.
The state governments of Australia formally apologise to the Aboriginal people :
- 27 May 1997: Western Australia (Richard Court, Premier; Geoff Gallop, Leader of the Opposition)
- 28 May 1997: South Australia (Dean Brown, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)
- 3 June 1997: Queensland (K.R.Lingard, Minister for Families, Youth and Community Care)
- 17 June 1997: Australian Capital Territory (Kate Carnell, Chief Minister)
- 18 June 1997: New South Wales (Bob Carr, Premier)
- 13 August 1997: Tasmania (Tony Rundle, Premier)
- 17 September 1997: Victoria (Jeff Kennett, Premier)
- 24 October 2001: Northern Territory (Claire Martin, Premier)
On a national level, prime minister John Howard refuses to apologise to the Stolen Generations for another ten years. He is forced out of office in the federal election in 2007, never having apologised.
They can't give me back my mother, my lost childhood... but when Bob Carr gave his apology it was a removal of all my mother's guilt, the secret she bore alone... the apology set her free. — Aunty Nancy de Vries, taken at 14 months 
Hamersley Iron and the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation finalise a unique regional land use agreement making the way of the $500 million Yandicoogina iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The agreement was the result of 20 months of consultation and negotiation.
Alcan South Pacific Pty Ltd enters into a detailed Heads of Agreement with the Aboriginal community in Weipa, Cape York, Queensland, for a proposed bauxite mining and shipping operation from Alspac’s existing mining lease at Ely, north of Weipa.
In response to the Wik decision the federal government under Howard develops its 10 Point Plan as the basis for amending the Native Title Act 1993. These amendments are introduced in the spring session (September 1997) of the Commonwealth parliament.
The 700-page report of the ‘Stolen Children’ National Inquiry ‘Bringing Them Home’, is tabled in federal parliament. The report concludes that the forcible removal of children was an act of genocide, contrary to United Nations Convention on Genocide, ratified by Australia in 1949. Australians are shocked by the report’s details.
Publication of the Report Into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, more commonly known as the Bringing Them Home Report. An abbreviated version is called 'Bringing them Home - Community Guide'. The inquiry made 54 recommendations, e.g. reparations and an apology to Aboriginal peoples.
- 10 to 33% of the Aboriginal children were removed from their families between 1910 and 1970.
- The stolen Aboriginal children often suffered physical and sexual abuse and official bodies failed to protect them.
- Many Aboriginal children were never paid for the work they did ('Stolen Wages').
- Under international law, from approximately 1946 the policies of forcible removal amount to genocide.
- The removal of Indigenous children continues today.
However, there was no process established to monitor, evaluate or review each recommendation (which was the Report's 2nd recommendation).
I know of no Indigenous person who told their story to the inquiry who wanted non-Indigenous Australians to feel guilty—they just wanted people to know the truth. — Mick Dodson 
During the opening address of the Reconciliation Convention Premier Minister John Howard refers to the plight of Australia’s Aboriginal people as a mere ‘blemish’, dismissing centuries of dispossession and violence as insignificant. Indigenous delegates in the audience stand and turn their backs on the Prime Minister in protest. The PM snaps and screams at the audience in return.
In facing the realities of the past, [...] we must not join those who would portray Australia's history since 1788 as little more than a disgraceful record of imperialism [...] such an approach will be repudiated by the overwhelming majority of Australians who are proud of what this country has achieved although inevitably acknowledging the blemishes in its past history. — Then-Prime Minister, John Howard
National Archives Australia - Bringing Them Home Indexing Project is launched. The project is focussed on the identification and preservation of Commonwealth records related to Indigenous people and communities.
The federal government makes amendments to the Native Title Act which reduce protection of native title.
Inaugural Sorry Day. The Bringing Them Home Report had suggested "to commemorate the history of forcible removals and its effects" on May 26 (recommendation #7a). Sorry Day offered the community the opportunity to be involved in activities to acknowledge the impact of the policies of forcible removal on Australia's Indigenous populations.
Sorry Day has been an annual event since.
Federal election results in a second Aboriginal person elected to federal parliament - Senator Aden Ridgeway. He is to remain a Democrats Senator for New South Wales until 2005, the only Aboriginal person serving in the Australian parliament during that time.
Aboriginal people across Australia hear with shock the comments of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Senator John Herron as he says stories of widespread removal of Aboriginal children from their families were exaggerated and that the removals that did occur were for lawful reasons "as occurs under child welfare policies today."
Aboriginal athlete and Olympic gold medallist, Cathy Freeman, receives the Australian of the Year award. ⇒ Famous Aboriginal people
The idea of a 'document of reconciliation' develops as a way to deal with the sensitivities and differences of view which existed about a treaty. Other terms which could be used instead of 'document of reconciliation' could be settlement, compact, covenant or declaration, or an Aboriginal word, such as Makarrata, which has an appropriate meaning.
Nova Peris wins gold in the 200m final and the 4x100m relay at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, becoming the first Australian to win international gold medals in two different sports, hockey and relay.
Australians for Native Title (ANT) launches the Sorry Books campaign where Australians can sign who want to do something in response to the federal government’s refusal to make a formal apology to the Stolen Generations.
HREOC releases the Social Justice Report 1998, which includes a summary of responses from the churches, and non-Indigenous community to the inquiry's recommendations plus an Implementation Progress Report.
One year after the Bringing Them Home report the first Sorry Day is marked by hundreds of activities around the country. The Australian federal government does not take part in ‘Sorry Day’, saying people who removed Aboriginal children thought they were doing the right thing and people now should not have to say sorry for what people did in the past. Over 1 million signatures in thousands of Sorry Books speak a different language.
Prime Minister John Howard vehemently opposes a treaty, instead insisting on non-binding recognition: "I hope we have some kind of written understanding. I don't like the idea of a treaty because it implies that we are two nations. We are not, we are one nation. We are all Australians before anything else, one indivisible nation.
"But I would certainly be in favour of a document that recognises the prior occupation of this country by the indigenous people, recognising their place as part of the Australian community and their right to preserve their distinctive culture. But within the notion of one undivided united Australian community where our first and foremost allegiance is to Australia and nothing else."
View article sources (4)
From Dispossession to Reconciliation, John Gardiner-Garden 1999
 'Vale: Nancy de Vries 1932 - 2006', ANTaR newsletter 6/2006 p.5
 'Hands across the nation', Professor Mick Dodson, The Age, 13/2/2008, p.21
 Australian Institute Of Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Studies, Sorry Books Exhibition, www.aiatsis.gov.au/collections/exhibitions/sorrybooks/introduction.html